While President Barack Obama was the star speaker of the Rev. Al Sharpton and NAN’s 16th Annual National Convention on Saturday, over 5,000 people attended the four-day event, making this the largest convention to date and the biggest national civil rights convening of the year.
Hosted at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, speakers and panelists covered every field, from housing to criminal justice to employment to education. For example, at the National Education Breakfast, the keynote speaker was U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. On another panel, speaking on the burgeoning issue of housing, was U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan.
Additionally, “Today’s Young Professionals, Tomorrow’s Leaders: Steps to the Executive Office and Beyond” was moderated by Janaye Ingram, the D.C. bureau chief of NAN, with panelists including Brian Benjamin, founder of Young Professionals United for Change. Gun policy and anti-violence was addressed by the forum “The New Jim Crow: Guns, Drugs and Mass Incarceration,” moderated by Mark Thompson, host of “Make it Plain.”’
The NAN convention concluded with its annual leadership forum “Measuring the Movement: 50 Years After President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.” The forum was hosted by Sharpton, with participants including Barbara R. Arnwire of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Melanie Campbell; Heather J. Foster, White House Office of Public Engagement; Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Janaye Ingram, NAN; Lorraine C. Miller, NAACP; and Marc Morial, National Urban League. The panel was joined by a special “Next Generation” youth panel led by NAN Youth Move. Essential topics covered included HIV/AIDS awareness, the state of prisons and more. The “Up in Smoke” panel talked about the banning of menthol cigarettes, marijuana legalization and criminalization of African-Americans.